The Weekly Getaway: Dublin, transforming into a more hip yet cult destination
Dublin used to be a small countryside town where the Poddle stream met the River Liffey to form a deep pool at Dublin Castle. With its history dating back more than 1,000 years, Dublin has never been short of tales and stories of regeneration. But its recent influx of youth immigrants is now transforming the way Dubliners live and the way tourists perceive this vibrant city!
From the late medieval ages and the English conquest, to the nation's independence in the late 20th century that ended the British rule, Dublin has consistently been affected time after time. The city, previously full of derelict sites, has also recently seen a building boom – especially in the construction of new office blocks and apartments, apparent mostly in the so-called International Financial Services Center along the North quays.
Temple Bar and Trinity College
The weather is grey and most of the times rainy, which as you knows always brings the crowds in. Across the cobbled pedestrian lanes of Temple Bar (not to mix with the bar named Temple Bar!) there are numerous crowded pubs hosting live folk shows and DJ sets, as well as fancy hip restaurants serving all sorts of cuisines. What is mostly apparent though is the young crowd! Although the area was once used to house all the town's artists, it's now heavily commercialised but still lingers some sort of an edge.
Students of Trinity College, as well as all other ex-pats working for the big tech companies that have transformed the city in the last decade or so, are hungry to go out. Dublin Castle is nearby and definitely worth checking out, whereas the lawns of Trinity College (ie. when the weather is good enough) are a nice getaway from the grey (and at times graffiti-infused) backdrop of the city centre.
When you've seen enough, look up Bunsen for a quick feast for the eyes, the soul and... well, the stomach! A very short simple menu and a mystery sauce will do the trick in what some claim as the best burger around the world! Early at night, The Dean hotel gets busy as patrons are lured in by the hip aesthetics and the cool kids that hang at their different venues available (more details below).
Grand Canal and Ballsbridge
A bit more to the east of the city and nearer the port and Dublin bay, lies a transformed neighbourhood of the Grand Canal. With a series of cranes and workers around you'll find that every month or so, new flats come into the real estate market to cope with the huge demand from young immigrants flocking the city. If you haven't booked tickets for the opera at the Bord Gais Energy theatre, then you might as well make your way up to the rooftop bar of The Marker Hotel which is definitely a good choice (not to mention that this is one of the best hotels around).
Further south, Ballsbridge is a mostly residential area that is perfect for unwinding if you have time. Herbert Park is a joy for early morning runners or families that wish to stroll around the lush gardens. Close enough is Angelina's Restaurant & Deli which can be combined with the park during the weekends for some delicious brunch treats!
- Trinity College - the most famous university in town featuring dated Georgian buildings for a short walking tour; known for its humanities, science & medical programs
- Guinness Storehouse - the famous brewery offers a bit of a touristy experience but if you like beer then a brief tasting or a quick visit to the Gravity bar at the top is not that bad
- Dublin Castle - more like a palace rather a castle, this historic building is now a government complex also offering tours inside the beautiful rooms that carry a lot of history on their walls
- The Marker Hotel - upscale hotel with great amenities and a nice breakfast; the best option around. Also features a rooftop bar when the weather is good during the summer
- The Dean Dublin - hip, dark and modern boutique hotel, featuring a nice lounge bar by the lobby of the hotel, a popular club and Sophie's restaurant at the top
- Luna - the best restaurant in Dublin, serving fine Italian dishes in a very cosy indoors. Read our full review here
- FX Buckley - arguably the best steaks around. Famous for their aged cuts
- Angelina's Restaurant & Deli - great ambience and food for brunch (by the canal) and dinner. Read our full review here
- Sophie's - rooftop terrace restaurant and bar at The Dean Hotel. Food is not great but the ambience can be nice
- 777 - Mexican food with a twist, in this buzzing small place that is perfect for after-work drinks. Read out full review here
- Il Vicoletto - famous Italian fine dining. Best option after Luna although this is a bit more formal
- Delahunt - Irish diner with a nice range of sandwiches and other small bites. Also nice interiors in this high ceiling space. Make sure you call in before coming cause they usually run out!
- Neon Asian Street Food - very good Asian street food for a quick lunchbreak. Read our full review here
- Bunsen - the best burger in Dublin and arguably one of the top ones in the world. Moist and fat as hell! Read our full review here
- 3fe - the best artisanal coffee in Dublin
- Dollard & Co - fast lunchbreak and food market that is worth exploring
- The Chophouse - gastro-pub that's worth a visit. Very good service too
- The Cobblestone - traditional Irish music pub still keeping a unique character. The live sets and sounds are not the best but the Guinness will definitely up the ante. Must visit if you're in for the real Dublin experience